Religion and nature are often understood as separate things and not connected to one another. Even though there is a strong connection between these two things because religion contributes greatly to regulating perceptions, morals, and human behavior in protecting and preserving nature through its teachings. This is what prompted the establishment of the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative (IRI), an interfaith initiative that is committed to mainstreaming values that support the preservation of tropical rainforests and the protection of indigenous peoples as the vanguards who protect the forests.
“Globally, people have seen the importance of the role of religious communities to take part in saving nature, because this is closely related to moral issues,” said Pastor Jimmy Sormin, Chair of IRI-Indonesia when opening the Launching and Socialization of Religious Guidelines on Forestry and Indigenous Peoples in Jakarta on December 16, 2022. Not only in Indonesia, IRI also exists in several other countries that have tropical rainforests, namely Brazil, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Peru.
Indonesia has tropical rainforests that cover more than 90 million hectares and is the third largest in the world after Brazil and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Forest is believed to be an important home for the biodiversity that lives in it, providing many benefits for us, especially for indigenous peoples who live around. Forests provide various needs such as a source of food, shelter, clothing, and medicines, to maintain the balance of the ecosystem and cool the planet.
Not only that, peatlands in mainland Indonesia store 35 billion tons of carbon which contributes greatly to the absorption of greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. “This is God’s grace for us, for Indonesia,” said Fachruddin Mangunjaya, a biologist and IRI member, in his presentation.
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Unfortunately, at the same time, Indonesia is also the third largest contributor to the emission of the green gas house in the world after America and China. Data shows that 85 percent of the country’s emission profile comes from the degradation and loss of forests and peatlands. This further shows that joint efforts to protect forests in Indonesia are important to be encouraged by various parties, including the religious community.
To this date, many efforts have been made by various communities, institutions, networks, and coalitions to save forests, however continuous efforts from all parties are still needed to stop deforestation in Indonesia. Including the effort to prevent and overcome forest loss with a religious approach.
In a country that has a diversity of religions like Indonesia, interfaith cooperation is needed to build the values, morals, and behavior of people to love nature. IRI is a manifestation of the solidarity of religious communities in Indonesia to protect nature, especially the rainforest. Hayu Prabowo, IRI’s National Facilitator, said, in its journey IRI carries three main programs to save Indonesia’s forests and protect the indigenous peoples, namely through increasing awareness and knowledge of the people, conducting advocacy, and taking real and concrete action.
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One of the efforts that IRI conducted is to launch the guidebook and sermon book about the importance of preserving forests and protecting indigenous peoples with the approach of six official religions in Indonesia, namely Islam, Protestant Christianity, Catholic Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Confucianism. On this occasion, IRI invited religious leaders and members of religious institutions to socialize the contents and message of these books to their followers.
Father Agustinus Heri Wibowo, a Catholic Christian religious leader, said that this is a form of love for nature, especially forests, which are God’s creations. This manifestation of love for creation is not just a humanitarian movement, but a part of the moral and faith movement of humanity. “Religion is part of the solution, including the solution to the destruction of nature, the solution to the destruction of tropical forests. This is our collective responsibility,” added Father Heri.
Editor: Nur Alfiyah and Swiny Adestika